Australian legend Cadel Evans says the public should have full confidence that professional cycling is now clean after emerging from the darkness of the Lance Armstrong doping era.
The Armstrong era was a double-edged sword for the sport.
Winning seven straight Tour de France titles after recovering from testicular cancer gave cycling unprecedented publicity for all the right reasons.
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But the Texan’s Oprah Winfrey confession that he had doped throughout his career – as had many rivals and teammates – plunged the sport into its lowest-ever ebb.
The now retired Evans, who won his own Tour de France in 2011, was part of the next generation tasked with restoring faith and credibility in the sport.
And as the world watches supreme athletes pump their legs at the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, Evans is confident there is now a level playing field.
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“I think they’ve done an incredible job actually of cleaning up the sport,” Evans told Wide World of Sports.
“The testing that the athletes go through is just incredible. You throw COVID on top of that and I feel really sorry for the guys racing in this period now.
“But cycling’s been a real leader in terms of the amount of drug testing they have, mixed in to what they’ve done. Obviously due to its past, and before I was involved in the sport, maybe it needed to do that.
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“But it has gone from its fast to a leader in how a sport should be run and how drug testing should be undertaken. I don’t know what public perception is but I know what the reality is and the reality is there’s no reason why the public should have any doubt about the athletes who are competing today in this world championships.”
Evans is an ambassador for Wollongong 2022.
It is just the second UCI Road World Championships to be held in Australia following its debut in Geelong in 2010.
“To see international cycling back on our shores is just great, it’s been more than a two-year hiatus,” Evans said.
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“(Australian) Grace (Brown) had a fantastic ride only to be beaten by the best time triallist in the world for this era (Ellen van Dijk).
“I was happy to see the underdog (Tobias Voss) win in the men’s (elite time trial) but I feel for Stefan Kung who is a former teammate who has fallen just short many times.
“It’s going to be a huge international drawcard for tourism in the bigger picture. In terms of cycling, I hope the likes of Grace Brown and Georgia Baker inspire people to take up the sport. Wollongong was awarded UCI Bike City, the only one in the southern hemisphere, which is a nice accolade to have.”
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